Once past Paraggi the carriage road ends in Portofino. Once known as the Roman village of Portus Delphini, as Plinius the Old called it, most probably because of the shape of its promontory, it was also popular among the Greeks as a maritime centre of a striking geographic shape.
A Mediterranean fjord located on the south-eastern end of the
promontory named after it, Portofino nestles in a deep and well proteded inlet, between the rocky peninsula closing the Gulf of Tigullio and Punta Carega that juts into the sea, to the west and the inlet of Paraggi to the south.
Since the second half of XIX century it has been the world’s most exclusive tourist destination, much loved by Germans, English and North-Americans. The tali, brightly painted typical Ligurian houses surrounding the small piazzetta (square), legendary for its dolce vita, are refleded into the waters of its beachless bay, and onto the small quay crowded with luxury yachts.
Under the pointed arcade, along Calata Marconi and the pier, glamorous boutiques, bars and restaurants are the setting of national and International events and regattas. Above the village stands the Church of San Giorgio:
below this church a small street leads to the rocky point ofthe cape among scented
gardens and olive groves. With its maritime pine trees and lighthouse, visitors are enchanted by the panoramic views of the Tigullio Gulf and the coastline which stretches out to Sestri Levante.
Towers and castles by the sea. Pass Santa Margherita, and after a few kilometres you reach San Michele di Pagana, a small fishermen’s village made up of the three bays:
Iravello, Pomaro and Prela, their sandy sea beds covered with thick fields of Posidonia seaweed.
Past Prelo beach stands Punta Pagana, a promontory covered by maritime
pine trees and holm-oaks. Here stands a XVI century square Tower, one ofthe few Saracen towers in Liguria that has not been made part of a house or completely transformed.
It is a witness to the period when the Ligurian coast was threatened by the incursions of pirate ships.
The tower was donated to the Italian Fund forthe Environment (FAI) which restored
it, recreating underthe roofthe bombarda room, the originai chevron paved brick floor and preserving the outer plaster that dates back to XVII century. Moreover the FAI also helped protect the arboreal species growing in the surrounding area.
Further on appears Rapallo, set in the deepest cave ofthe Tigullio Gulf, protected by a semi circle background of hills. The climate is mild and temperate ali year, making the ancient maritime village a famous resort during the secand half of XIX century. The elegant and busy Vittorio Veneto sea front, with its hotels and cafés, reca 115 the legendary international belle époque.
On the other side lies the wide beach with its lidos and the international tourist harbour that, thanks to its modern equipment, can moor more than 900 boats. In the centre of the curving, wide, sandy beach, on a rock jutting into the sea stands the Castle (1550).
It has a unique structure for a fortified building, that of cantrasting apses. The fortification was the residence ofthe town captain and later canverted into a prison. Restored by the Local Municipality that came into its possession in 1959, it is now used for cultural events, exhibitions and fairs.